Gov. Evers issues formal apology for Wisconsin's role in Indian boarding schools

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ONEIDA, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers signed an executive order issuing a formal acknowledgement and apology for Wisconsin's historical role in Indian boarding schools on Indigenous Peoples Day Monday, Oct. 11.

The governor's order, Executive Order #136, also includes a formal declaration of support for the U.S. Department of Interior investigation announced earlier this year and requesting any investigations in the state be undertaken in consultation with Wisconsin's Native Nations.

The announcement comes as earlier this year the remains of more than 1,300 students were discovered in Canada at residential school sites. 

“As a state, we share responsibility for acknowledging the pain inflicted on Tribal communities historically and even still today. We also have a moral obligation to pursue the truth and to bring these injustices to light in Wisconsin and across our country because that understanding and acknowledgment is essential for accountability and healing,” said Gov. Evers. “We recognize the trauma inflicted on Native families and communities and the loss of language, culture, and identity and the intergenerational effects these facilities had and still have while honoring the resilience and contributions of Indigenous people to our state and our country.”

For more than a century between the 1860s and 1970s, officials say the U.S. federal government induced and coerced thousands of Native American children from their families and homes, placing them into boarding schools funded by the government and operated by the government and religious organizations. According to a news release, residential schools sought to force assimilation of Native American children by isolating them from their cultural identities, punishing them for speaking their native language or practicing their traditions, prohibiting them from wearing traditional clothing, and requiring children to cut their hair.

Records indicate there were at least 10 day and boarding schools operated in Wisconsin where thousands of children attended, while hundreds of children from Wisconsin were sent to attend out-of-state boarding schools, officials say. 

Monday marks the third time Wisconsin has celebrated Indigenous Peoples Day, first recognized in 2019 when Evers signed Executive Order #50 to recognizet he day annually on the second Monday in October. 

Wisconsin is home to 11 federally-recognized Native Nations and one federally unrecognized nation. 

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